Toby (Aaron Long) lives in a small town in England where he gets by, just, by boxing and some little businesses that aren’t always strictly legal. He takes care of his mother as best he can, which is not very well and unfortunately includes abusing her. The only one he has a tension free relationship with is his dog Prince. But then Prince is killed in front of Toby at the hands of one of his business partners who is trying to punish Toby. In his next fight, Toby loses control completely. As does his opponent who cuts Toby’s throat. The freshly deceased Toby returns home, where he gets chased away by a ghost (Irina Fisher). As he wanders forlornly, Edith (Sarah Jane Williams) picks him up and informs him that she is to pass judgment whether he is allowed to go to Heaven or has to go to Hell. It doesn’t take long until Toby finds himself in purgatory, on the last road.
The Last Road works with an interesting, but slightly undercooked concept. For a first time filmmaker, it’s not bad but it does come with its share of flaws.
Contrary to most indie first time productions, The Last Road is a rather long film – it clocks in at about two hours. Unfortunately at around the 70 minute mark (if not earlier) I started to lose focus and interest in the film, making me wish that The Last Road had stuck to the usual conventions of short first features.
That is not to say that there was nothing of interest anymore, but there were many scenes that could have just been plainly shortened. Alternatively, one could have used the extra time to sharpen the concepts in this film. Above all how exactly Purgatory works in this version of it. To me it felt like Wheeler knew it down to the last dot but precisely because he knew it so closely, it was difficult to grasp for people hearing about it for the first time.
A clearer narrative would have also helped. Narratively the film works fine until Toby reaches Purgatory. Up until that point I didn’t really care much for Toby, but I could at least go along with him on his journey (with Edith as utter highlight of the entire movie and the ghost in his house as a nice interlude). Afterwards the film more or less disintegrates into a seemingly random collection of scenes that never really come together for me.
Visually the film is quite striking (though I could have done without the gratuitous boob shots), even if rough around the edges. With a little more (external) script editing, the story would have matched that level and we would have looked at an extremely strong feature debut. As is, I can’t be quite as enthusiastic about it.